Light and dark are a pair of startling contrasts when it comes to stand-up comedy, and two Brits on tightarse Tuesday encapsulated this perfectly.
Daniel Sloss, Dark
Roxanne is a returning venue to MICF; an extension of the Charlton’s Pool Hall down Coverlid Place (maybe one of the dumber names for a street ever; enter off Roadstreet and enjoy a drinkbeverage while you’re there); to your left are a seemingly endless number of graffiti/piss-clad stairways; to your right is a dirty movie theatre, advertising Girls Girls Girls. Delightful setting.
25-year-old Scottish comic Daniel Sloss is one of those preternaturally gifted stand-ups who seems to have gotten himself to an apex of the circuit in a ridiculously short timeframe. With an acerbic wit and a delight for certain Anglo-Saxon expletives (like the Scots, the Australians will, can and do use ‘cunt’ liberally – as a term of endearment when called for), Sloss is frustratingly good at what he does, tackling some pretty namesake-dark material in his consistently good MICF debut.
His main thrust is the inherent hypocrisy found in a broader society, the main differences between UK and American audiences, and the essential flaws in the thought processes of those quick to become offended by that which they don’t understand. One of his more pertinent points was how (some) Australians have totally fucked up the word ‘liberal’. Which is an interesting, valid and entirely telling notion when you think of it. He covers sex, religion, disability, death and generally being a cunt (again, not always a bad thing), and the general challenges of someone wanting to be an artist when both parents were supportive and didn’t abuse him.
Sloss’ material can err to the entirely, room-silencingly dramatic at times, but he’s a genuine master of this craft and can weave a yarn like he was twice as old, bringing the room back to exaltation within moments.
It’s a funny show. Biting, thought-provoking, unnervingly smart and a genuine festival highlight.
Hal Cruttenden, Straight Outta Cruttenden
Melbourne Town Hall
We go from dark, to what could easily epitomize ‘light’.
The illuminated yin to Daniel Sloss’ oft-macabre yang is Hal Cruttenden, one of the more up-beat, jovial and unmistakably jolly performers I’ve ever seen. ‘Jolly’ really fits the bill here, he’s a chubby (his phrasing) Londoner with a perfectly up-tempo disposition with a series of well-honed bits about British nationalism, middle class privilege, marriage, fatherhood, and how he wanted to be a Hollywood leading man, but for the fact that he has a voice not dissimilar to Mr Humphries from Are You Being Served? (one of his great, albeit brief bits was him doing famous ‘tough guy’ movie lines in his high-pitched, squeaky clean British lilt).
Cruttenden interacts with his front row quite a lot – a trope I usually despise – but he does it well, chatting (as it were) and firing off-the-cuff zingers with ease and fun. He is clearly is clearly having a whale of a time on stage, and even amid this relatively small audience (tightarse Tuesday) he worked the crowd beautifully and seemed to love the time he had there. It’s the hallmarks of a great, well-honed performance of a seasoned pro, that he can do as well in front of close to 100 as he did at the Network 10 Comedy Gala TV special from a week or so ago.
Much of the second part of his act is devoted to the world that social media has created, the needy, narcissistic, attention-seeking side of it all, and perhaps the highlight of the evening was a brilliant bit he did about the way people use the deaths of others to draw attention to themselves via Facebook and the like – make the other person’s death all about them. I love it when someone gets what I’ve been thinking and then turns it into something funny that I hope to steal and use one day (victimless crime).
Hal Cruttenden’s a pro, his MICF show is laugh-out-loud funny and should be a definite starter for anyone looking for a critic’s pick. Highly recommended.